What Do Mueller and the Kremlin Know About Michael Cohen’s Alleged Prague Trip?

No aspect of the scandal surrounding President Donald J. Trump’s hidden relations with Russia has been more controversial than the reputed summer 2016 trip to the Czech Republic by Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime consigliere. Now, a confluence of intelligence that’s found its way into the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller may finally provide some long-awaited answers.

As reported in the contested dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, the former British senior intelligence officer and Russia expert, Cohen sojourned to Prague in late August or early September of our election year to secretly parley with Kremlin representatives. In Steele’s telling, Cohen went to the Czech Republic to deliver cash to Russian hackers to help swing the 2016 election Trump’s way. This account, if true, describes unambiguous collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin—exactly what the president has always denied occurred. If Cohen met with Russian spies in the late summer of 2016 to conspire against Hillary Clinton, that’s something a lot of Americans would term treason.

But did it happen? Cohen has always denied it did, while Team Trump have gone out of their way to attack the story, and Steele generally. Except Steele never claimed that everything in his dossier was corroborated. It’s raw human intelligence, taken from sources Steele couldn’t always talk to directly, and it undoubtedly includes some Russian disinformationIn particular, the Kremlin has spread lies about the Prague meeting, which indicates there may be something they’re trying to hide there.

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The Truth Behind This Bomb That Took Down Pan Am 103 Over Lockerbie Remains a 30-Year Mystery

Thirty years ago this week, Pan Am Flight 103 was torn apart by an explosion as it cruised 31,000 feet above the Scottish Lowlands, 38 minutes after it departed London’s Heathrow Airport. The shattered Boeing 747, named Clipper Maid of the Seas, was bound for New York but never made its destination, falling in flames around the bucolic town of Lockerbie.

There were no survivors. The catastrophe claimed the lives of 270 innocents: 243 passengers, 16 crew, and 11 Lockerbie residents killed when the airliner’s fiery wing cratered in the middle of their town. One hundred and ninety of the dead were American, including a group of 35 Syracuse University students headed home for Christmas after a European semester abroad.

Once it was obvious that nobody survived the crash, the biggest investigation in British history commenced, painstakingly locating and cataloguing over four million pieces of wreckage—including thousands of body parts—spread over 850 square miles of the Scottish countryside. Within a week of the disaster, investigators discovered traces of explosive, revealing that the Lockerbie crash was no accident.

A bomb took down the 747, and FBI analysis revealed that the huge airliner was destroyed by less than a pound of plastic explosive, specifically Semtex from Czechoslovakia, packed in a Samsonite suitcase stowed in the plane’s forward left luggage container. The improvised explosive device was hidden in a Toshiba radio cassette player and was detonated by a barometric sensor designed to detect altitude.

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Trump’s sudden Syria pullout reveals his administration’s chaos – and misguided priorities

President Donald J. Trump’s surprise announcement on Wednesday that he is withdrawing the US military from Syria has shaken the Washington, DC, foreign policy establishment like a thunderclap. While there have been nods of approval from skeptics about American interventionism in the Middle East, that’s a rare breed inside the Beltway.

Instead, DC foreign policy mavens, most of whom espouse neo-flavored beliefs (whether neoliberal or neoconservative) reacted with derision and horror to Trump’s proposed withdrawal from Syria’s terrible fratricide, ongoing for almost eight years. These media and think-tank denizens, once derided as ‘the Blob’ by Obama’s White House, have spoken with one voice, and it’s sharply critical of the president.

Prominent Republicans are among the harshest Trump critics, with Sen. Lindsey Graham leading the charge against the president’s Syria decision, which Graham claims ‘rattled the world.’ Most Democratic critiques of Trump’s announcement sound similar, when not identical. Here’s another reminder of the broad and deep Washington consensus that the only thing wrong with American military interventions, especially in the Middle East, is that there aren’t enough of them.

Read the rest at Spectator USA…

Mike Flynn’s Disastrous Day in Court Blows Apart Trump’s Deep State Conspiracy Theory

Every day of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, his White House has been dogged by allegations surrounding his 2016 campaign’s illicit involvement with Russia. For almost two years, his administration has been under scrutiny by the press and the Justice Department over suspect ties to Moscow.

President Trump’s defense has been not just stout denials of any untoward activities but turning the tables on his accusers. In a classic Trumpian move, the president insists he’s the victim of a far-reaching plot involving Democrats and various organs of the Federal government, which colluded in a doomed effort to keep the Republican nominee from the White House.

This is the up-is-down approach, where nothing is as it seems to be, and where not only was there NO COLLUSION but his accusers are the real colluders, and all their assertions fake news. To term this properly, it’s a conspiracy theory, and to believe it you must have no idea how the alleged “Deep State” actually works.

Conveniently for Trump, most Americans have no idea how our intelligence agencies function in reality, so millions of citizens have swallowed the president’s ridiculous narrative hook, line and sinker. That our commander-in-chief constantly reinforces its central tenets in tweets helps to keep his MAGA legions on-side.

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Is the Cohen-in-Prague mystery about to be revealed at last?

Yesterday, Michael Cohen, the president’s disgraced consigliere, accepted his fate. Although Cohen has assisted the Department of Justice in its inquiry into Donald J. Trump’s Kremlin connections, he nevertheless was sentenced to three years in Federal prison for myriad crimes, including hush-payoffs to two Trump mistresses, as well as lying to Congress.

The old Cohen, brimming with bravado about taking a bullet for his only client, taunting TV talking heads in Trump’s defense, is long gone. The new Cohen sounds contrite about his crimes, which he admitted. In the Federal court in Manhattan, he explained that his ‘blind loyalty’ to the president and Trump’s ‘dirty deeds’ constituted his downfall. Cohen added defiance: ‘The irony is today is the day I am getting my freedom back,’ exchanging a criminal client for the penitentiary.

On cue, the president took to Twitter this morning to lambaste his former attorney while explaining that there were no crimes committed at all. Trump pinned full responsibility on Cohen (‘He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.’) who must now be wondering what he’s going to prison for if there were no crimes.

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President Trump Really May Go to Jail—For the Rest of His Life

Nearly two years ago, in the first month of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, I touched off a firestorm by telling the public what our Intelligence Community—publicly attacked as Nazis by our 45th president on the eve of his inauguration—felt about their new commander-in-chief. As I tweeted, passing on the viewpoint of a senior IC official: “He will die in jail.”

This utterance outraged the president’s defenders and was considered outré, even though everybody in the IC I’ve encountered who’s familiar with the Trump case—not a short list—feels similarly. America’s spies before Trump took his oath of office concluded that the Kremlin helped elect the president, and the IC, which deals in facts rather than spin, has never wavered on this point.

Simply put, our president has most likely committed crimes, above all conspiring with a hostile power to boost his 2016 campaign (including seeking financial gain from that unfriendly foreign country), which none of his predecessors did, so it’s increasingly likely that Trump will accrue punishments never visited on any American president.

Just how much hot water the president and his retinue are in came into focus last week with multiple bombshells dropped by the Department of Justice. First, the Special Counsel on Tuesday informed a Federal court that Michael Flynn, the president’s short-lived first national security adviser, had decisively flipped on Team Trump.

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In 2018 America, everybody you don’t like is ‘extremist’

It has become a totem of liberal faith in the Trump era that America is crawling with secret brigades of far-right extremists who are ready at a moment’s notice to emerge from their mothers’ basements to commit murder and mayhem. Rancid social media posts and individual acts of horror are imagined to constitute an underground Nazi army.

The evidence for this viewpoint can be charitably termed thin. Certainly, far-right extremists and even terrorists are out there, but they’re nothing new, and a plausible case can be made that America’s problem with the violent kook-right is less grave now than it was a generation ago, when bona fide neo-Nazis were on the murderous loose.

This is off-message, however, and bien-pensants eagerly take any far-right activity as proof of a security threat at the level of roughly the Islamic State. Hence, we get mainstream media pontifications about the alleged deadliness of white males, who are portrayed as a greater threat to public safety than jihadists. That no actual terrorism experts think this is irrelevant, while serious academic studies revealing the true state of domestic terrorism in the West are ignored by the media.

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As Trump Panic-Tweets, Putin Cracks His Whip and Shows Him Who’s Boss

This was the week that the bottom fell out of Donald Trump’s presidency. After almost two years of White House denials that Candidate Trump had any ties to Russia in 2016, that turns out to be just one more Trumpian lie. No amount of “NO COLLUSION” tweets from the Oval Office can undo the damage that has now been done.

The decisive moment was the appearance of Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime personal attorney, in Federal court in New York on Thursday to admit he lied to Congress about Trump’s commercial interests in Russia. To protect his client, Cohen covered up the reality of Trump’s Moscow contacts—an issue that has been of the highest interest to Robert S. Mueller, III and his Special Counsel investigation.

Lying to Congress, although a felony, is a rare charge, but here it matters. Back in August, Trump’s consigliere pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance law violations relating to his client’s hush-payments to Trump’s former lovers, an issue that was headline-grabbing but peripheral to the Mueller probe. What Cohen stated in court on Thursday was vastly more damaging to the president.

Cohen explained that he knowingly lied to the Senate and House intelligence committees regarding his client’s efforts during Trump’s presidential run to develop a luxury hotel and condominium complex in Moscow. This relationship is something the president repeatedly denied, most famously with his January 2017 tweet, days before his inauguration: “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

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Putin turns up the heat on Ukraine – again

Although seldom noticed by anyone west of Warsaw, there has been a war going on in Europe for almost five years now. It began in early 2014 with a Russian secret operation in mid-February that annexed Crimea and soon spread to overt Kremlin military intervention in eastern Ukraine as well. Serious fighting followed, and that conflict remains unfrozen and deadly.

While there has been no sustained combat in eastern Ukraine in years, neither is that front quiet. Kyiv has never accepted the Russian theft of Crimea and the “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk, Kremlin-run pseudo-states that serve as bases for Russian military units on Ukrainian soil. Those units regularly shell Ukrainian positions, because they can. Casualties are commonplace – a few at a time, on a sufficiently low-boil that the West makes little fuss – but hundreds of Ukrainian troops have been killed or wounded since 2015. Twelve were lost to Russian shelling, with five of them dead, on one bad day this August.

As is his wont, Russian President Vladimir Putin occasionally turns up the heat on Ukraine, because he can. The latest aggressive Kremlin provocation came on Sunday, when Russian Coast Guard vessels in the Black Sea attacked Ukrainian navy boats in the strategically vital Kerch Strait, which divides Crimea from Russia. For months, tensions have been rising around the narrow waterway, particularly since Moscow opened a bridge across it in May. This is the sole land connection between Russia and its Crimean reconquest and is therefore of preeminent importance to the Kremlin.

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Democrats Have Their Own Kremlin Influence Problem, Starting with Al Gore and Maxine Waters

Democrats now fervently believe that the White House is infected by illicit Russian influence since Donald Trump moved in almost two years ago. Democrats are ignoring that this isn’t the first time this has happened.

new poll indicates how far left-wing paranoia has run recently. When asked if “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected,” 67 percent of Democrats indicated that was “definitely true” or “probably true” while a mere eight percent said it was “definitely not true” (compared to 54 percent of Republicans).

One problem: While there is overwhelming evidence that Russian intelligence interfered with our 2016 election in terms of espionage and propaganda, venerable Kremlin spy techniques they term Active Measures speeded up for the online age, there’s zero evidence that Russians manipulated any vote tallies in 2016. Our Intelligence Community has examined this touchy subject closely and found, well, nothing. As an NSA official told me recently, “There’s just no ‘there’ there, no matter what MSNBC says.”

Read the rest at The Observer …